Eighteen months ago, COVID-19 emptied its streets and public transportation in Toronto. People are once again on the move as there are signs of a return to life in the city. Just the way they walk has changed. In this two-part series, Toronto Star transportation reporter Ben Spur examines your post-pandemic future. In part one, he explores the problems facing TTC, and in part two today, he looks at the troubled return of gridlock.
More pollution, billions of dollars in lost productivity, poor health and increased stress. All those problems may await Toronto residents after the pandemic, if the city doesn’t get to deal with its resurgent traffic woes.
Eighteen months after COVID-19 plunged Toronto into peril and emptied its roads, drivers have returned to roadways this fall in numbers. The city’s famous gridlock is back.
And while the roads are not yet as congested as before the pandemic, there are troubling signs that travel patterns over the past year and a half have posed a serious threat to the city’s long-term stability.
For one, the roadways are busy again, despite the city’s office occupancy staying historically low and commuters staying home. Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly, car use is returning at much faster rates than transit ridership.
Experts warn that if those trends continue as Toronto opens up and more people return to physical workplaces, overcrowding could be worse than before COVID-19, which has a negative impact on the environment, economy and residents’ lives. There will be a significant negative impact on quality.
“I think it’s definitely a threat right now, of course, as things probably come back with more traffic and more congestion,” said Jesse Coleman, manager of transportation data and analytics for the City of Toronto. “This is something the city is taking seriously and actively managing.”